In one of the things I did not expect to find out today: the conspiracy theory that Boris Johnson gamed Google search results around his reputation, although then quickly debunked by this Wired article:
For one thing, Google search results are weighted towards behavioural factors and sentiment of those searching for terms — which would mean that such a strategy of polishing search results would be shortsighted. The individual nuances of each user are reflected in the search results they see, and the search results are constantly updated.
“What we search for influences what we find,” says Rodgers. “Not all search results are the same. That front page of Google, depending on what I’ve searched for in the past. It’s very hard to game that organic search.”
I’m not sure about the fact that our search results were affected by own behaviours though, as I am a fan of Dr Safiya Umoja Noble’s work, Algorithms of Oppression, which speaks about how biases against people of colour are highly embedded into these supposedly neutral search engines. In the book, she presents the argument that more so than the search results reflect the users’ biases, it actually reflects the algorithmic harms intended by who created them — the designers, the developers, the product managers, the VCs, etc. those who were involved in the creation of these search engines.
First page of search results on keywords “black girls,” September 18, 2011. Credit: Safiya Umoja Noble, and TIME.
Definitely this is a topic that should be filed under: For Further Reflection.